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The Tower of London

The Tower of London is, in fact, a complex of twenty towers, nineteen of which are built in a huge circle around the main fortress in the middle, which is called the White Tower, because at one time it was coated with whitewash. The White Tower stands on the site of William the Conqueror's first wooden fort, quickly constructed immediately after he had settled here. In 1078 he ordered the building of the present massive stone fortress, which stands 90 feet high and has walls 15 feet thick at the base. No one has ever captured the Tower of London!

The whole collection of towers is permeated with royal associations. The main White Tower served as the royal residence for all medieval kings, but of course became less used as other palaces were built. Other recent towers with special royal memories are the Wakefield Tower, in which Henry VI was murdered; the Bloody Tower, in which the young princes were most probably murdered on orders of Richard III; and the Beauchamp Tower was the prison of Lord Guilford Dudley, who perhaps scratched the name 'Jane' twice on the wall here.

On Tower Green Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard and Lady Jane Grey were beheaded, and they are buried in the nearby chapel of St Peter ad Vincula. Traitors' Gate' was the entrance through which prisoners were brought from the Thames. It was through this waterside gate that the future Queen Elizabeth I was forced to come, weeping and protesting, as her half-sister Queen Mary I ordered her detainment.

In its time the Tower has acted as fortress, palace, storehouse, arsenal, treasury, mint, prison, and even zoo. Henry III kept leopards, a polar bear, an elephant and lions here. In fact, animals were here until 1834, when they were sent to the new zoo in Regent's Park.

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